Back to Africa: Egypt's Morsi arrives in Addis Ababa Sunday

Dina Ezzat, Tuesday 22 Jan 2013

Egyptian president to meet officials from Nile Basin states on sidelines of this year's African Summit; Leaders expected to discuss Mali crisis, Nile water

Morsi to Addis
File photo: Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi attends during the opening of the African Union (AU) leaders' meeting in Addis Ababa (Photo: Reuters)

President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday is scheduled to arrive in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where the African Union is located, to take part in an African Summit.

"This is an important sign of Egypt's commitment to bolstering its ties with Africa,” said Egyptian ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Idris.

The trip will be Morsi's second visit to the Ethiopian capital since he was sworn in as Egyptian head of state on 30 June. Morsi's last visit to Addis Ababa was last July, when he took part in the previous African Summit.

In the years preceding the 2011 revolution, several African countries had complained about Mubarak-era Egypt's seeming disinterest in the continent. Since Egypt's Tahrir Square uprising two years ago, however, Cairo appears to have stepped up its interest in Africa.

According to Idris, Morsi will meet with top African officials and leaders – especially those of the Nile Basin – on the summit's sidelines.

Morsi's current Ethiopia visit comes amid continued Egyptian concern over a new dam that Ethiopia is building over the Nile River with the aim of expanding its annual share of Nile water. The new dam, Cairo fears, could bite into Egypt's traditional allotment of water.

Egyptian officials have repeatedly warned of a brewing "water crisis" and have been working with counterparts from Nile Basin countries to ensure that any changes of water allotments would not come at the expense of other states' shares.  

Egypt and Sudan – now Egypt and North Sudan – have both taken exception to a recent agreement adopted by Nile Basin countries aimed at redistributing Nile water. Both countries have been urging greater cooperation between all Nile states in hopes of maximising use of the river's resources.

Nile water resources will be on the agenda of Morsi's address in Addis Ababa.

"Cooperation between Egypt and Ethiopia in several fields, including maximising the use of Nile water, will be on the agenda of the president's talks with top Ethiopian officials and those of the Nile Basin countries," Idris said.

Morsi's visit to Ethiopia is his first since Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi died last August. Zenawi was known for his apprehension regarding Egypt and Egypt's vast water needs.

Haile Mariam Desalegne, Zenawi's predecessor, is reportedly committed to Zenawi's dream of building a series of dams over the Nile to help generate electricity. Egypt plans to manage its relations with Desalegne in hopes of achieving better cooperation on water sharing.

Morsi is expected to address key issues on the summit's agenda. At the top of this is the current situation in Mali, where an African-led international force is acting to deter Islamist fighters from toppling the France-supported regime.

The Morsi administration has not supported the military intervention in Mali, conducted at the request of the Malian government, and had hoped instead to broker a deal between the rebels and the regime.

Developments in Mali and the potential role of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (from which Morsi hails) in bringing radical Islamists in the Middle East and Africa to a more moderate version of political Islam will both likely crop up in Morsi's talks with French counterpart Francois Hollande. The two heads of state are scheduled to meet in Paris on 31 January.

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